It’s not easy pulling off an effortless air of positivity that is at once genuine and relatable. Those rose-colored glasses can only tint the world so starkly. Besides, aloof cool has been considered trendy for almost as long as the half-empty cliché has been used as a marker to determine one’s outlook. Enter ebullient rockers Free Energy, whose happy-go-lucky mixture of positivity-fueled jams and classic rock mechanics run smooth without rubbing you the wrong way.
The power pop five-piece weren’t always so confident in their music and performances. “Before, we were kind of shut off and really up and down with energy,” frontman Paul Sprangers tells the Appeal. “In the beginning, we didn’t know how to write songs.”
The demise of Sprangers and co.’s previous band Hockey Night helped chart Free Energy’s sonic course. As Hockey Night was dissolving, an attention to detail was emerging. “We made a conscious decision not to be messy or sloppy. It was something we tried to apply to [Hockey Night] before it fell apart but our intention was out there.”
Free Energy found success fast thanks to landing a deal with iconic label DFA, who gave the band a crash course in the music business. With the help of producer and LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, the band released a highly acclaimed debut Stuck On Nothing in 2010. “DFA was really the home of the sound we wanted and James Murphy was key in helping us commit to those ideas,” Sprangers explains.
Though Free Energy and DFA have since parted ways, Sprangers says “we know exactly what we want. Whether it’s a label or a booking agent, I feel like we’ve seen almost every component of the business, especially working with James [Murphy]. We learned a lot.”
Many acts would take a split such as this as a negative; a potential final blow to a fledgling music career. Not so with Free Energy. “We’re purposeful now and we craft with care. Now that we’re really on our own there’s a precision and confidence,” Sprangers says.
Already, Free Energy has independently put out an album in the form of the ultra-catchy Love Sign. Their latest endeavor waxes amorous on serendipity and the signals of the universe. “It refers to being aware of signs: to simply being aware and open and following those signs. It also follows what happens when you don’t,” Sprangers says with a laugh.
Single “Electric Fever” riffs on Bachman-Turner Overdrive with the kind of arena-heavy vocals clearly reserved for live performance. Onstage Free Energy is just as plugged in to the goings on around them. That connection between band and audience promises to be just as strong when Free Energy takes the stage tonight at Slim’s.
“There’s such an enjoyment and sense of gratitude when we’re onstage. We’re wild and enthusiastic,” Sprangers says excitedly. “And our new stuff is badass!”
Catch Free Energy Saturday, June 8 at Slim’s.